Undermined Promise II finds that coal companies have fallen far behind in reclaiming mines, and, with the coal industry on shaky financial ground, the public faces increasing liability for massive reclamation costs of more than $3.5 billion and damage to landscapes, wildlife and crucial water supplies. The American public will be left to deal with the fallout as companies scramble to offset low prices and decreasing demand at home for coal by exporting their product to foreign markets.
Reclamation bonds that coal companies are required to post under federal law may outstrip the industry’s financial resources. Out of a total of 450 square miles of mined land across Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota, only 46 square miles have been reclaimed.
Once a formidable force, the coal industry now faces bond market downgrades and a global divestment movement amid low market prices, a multi-million-dollar tab to upgrade aging power plants, competition from natural gas and increasingly competitive renewable energy prices.
Undermined Promise II finds that after decades of mining throughout the region, coal companies are not being held accountable for failing to protect and restore lands in the West to their original state.
Cleanup costs are climbing; the largest mines have bonds in excess of $300 million apiece.
The practice of allowing certain companies under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to self-bond, or agree to pay future reclamation costs without providing customary collateral, is under fire as the industry’s economic condition grows shakier.